Restricting a Child’s Access to a Parent’s New Partner Following a New Jersey Divorce

251732_agreement__signing sxchu username lfpilzNew Jersey’s Family Court Recognizes the Changing Times in Which We Live- Judge Rules that a Permanent Restriction on an Ex-Spouse’s Paramour Staying over His or Her House When the Child is Residing at the Home May NOT be Enforceable.

Can my ex-husband allow his new girlfriend to spend the night while our child is at his home for parenting time?    This is the question that Mrs. Mantle, an Ocean County post -divorce litigant wanted to know.  She believed she could enforce such a restriction.  The Court believed otherwise.   Judge Lawrence Jones sitting in the Ocean County Superior Court, Family Part, was willing to tackle this sensitive issue we family law practitioners frequently encounter in the divorce cases we handle at Goldstein Law Group.   Until now, there was little guidance on what time periods or other conditions, if any, were reasonable for an ex-spouse to ultimately expose his or her children to that spouse’s new significant other, in particular, to have the paramour sleep over the house when the children were also residing there.   We, as family law attorneys, counseled our clients accordingly, based upon the ages of the child or children, the living arrangements, any psychological issues the child or the parties were facing, and other case sensitive factors.  In many instances, the parties sought to impose “DaVita” restraints (taken from the case in which Mr. and Mrs DaVita addressed such issues, and there were restraints imposed on the exposure of children post-divorce to a parent’s significant other. Here, Judge Jones recently ruled that blanket DaVita restraints are not generally enforceable.  Rather, divorcing parents may not permanently ban a child from interacting with a parent’s new significant other without proof of inappropriate conduct.  In Mantle v. Mantle, two divorcing parents agreed to indefinitely restrict either parent’s new paramour from having access to their child during parenting time.  A few months later, the child’s mother sought to enforce the open-ended “no exposure to dating partners” requirement on his father.  Despite this, the mother did not assert that the father’s new girlfriend committed any inappropriate or harmful acts in the presence of her son.

According to the family court, a 1976 Appellate Court case upheld a trial court’s decision to place a restriction on a child’s access to his or her parents’ dating partners.  In DaVita, the court ruled the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it granted a mother’s request that her former spouse’s girlfriend be prohibited from spending the night during the father’s parenting time.  In that case, the court added that the decision was not contrary to the current societal norms in the community.

Next, the Mantle court stated it was unclear whether the decision in DaVita was still “socially viable.”  The court said it was likely that a majority of the community would no longer frown upon a dating partner discreetly spending the night during parenting time.  The court added that, although the DaVita case was still valid, it was “a fairly aged decision.”

Ultimately, the Mantle court ruled that dating partner restraints may not be indefinite in part because such a condition on child custody may invite unnecessary strife and mischief.  The court then stated the length of such a restriction must be based on the best interests of the former couple’s child.  According to the court, children should not be placed into a situation where a parent’s new significant other is staying overnight during parenting time immediately.  Instead, the court said such restrictions should be based on the length of time since the parents ceased to cohabitate, the length of the dating relationship, and any diagnosed psychological issues the child may have.  The Mantle court continued by stating a blanket restriction on a dating partner’s access to a child may be imposed if the partner poses a threat to the minor.

Finally, the family court ruled that the parents in the Mantle case may introduce their child to new dating partners after six months, and such partners may stay overnight after one year.  Although this case is not necessarily applicable to every child custody situation where a parent seeks to enforce a restriction on introducing a couple’s child to a new paramour, it provides well-reasoned guidance for both parents and their legal counsel.

For quality legal representation and useful explanations regarding your child custody and other family law questions, you should call the experienced New Jersey family lawyers at Goldstein Law Group at 732-967-6777 or contact our knowledgeable attorneys through our website today.

Additional Resources:

Ban on Paramour Overnights Voided by Family Judge, by Charles Toutant, New Jersey Law Journal

Mantle v. Mantle, No. FM-15-656-15, Superior Ct. of New Jersey (March 9, 2015)

More Blog Posts:

Separation and Divorce in New Jersey, August 1, 2015, New Jersey Divorce Lawyers Blog

Effective Co-Parenting Following a New Jersey Divorce, July 31, 2015, New Jersey Divorce Lawyers Blog

Photo Credit: lfpilz, FreeImages